Apple’s rumored music service might not be Mac-only; ‘iPod-only’ instead

We’ve received information from multiple sources that suggest that rumors of Apple’s forthcoming online music service will not be “Mac-only” as most rumors have described. Rather, information we’ve received suggests that Apple’s music service will be “iPod-only,” meaning that Windows iPod users will be able to use the rumored service. We stress that this information remains unconfirmed and should be categorized as “rumor,” as is the “music service” itself at this point.

Some information on the rumored service itself:
“…the (New York) Times reported that Apple would forsake the familiar MP3 format, which lacks the ability to embed DRM, in favor of a DRM- capable format called Advanced Audio Coding (AAC). Whatever the extent of Apple’s DRM, it must be firm enough to quell the record companies’ fear of piracy.”

“As part of the MPEG-4 standard approved last year, AAC is part of the latest version of Apple’s QuickTime software. According to information on Apple’s Web site, AAC provides higher-quality audio and better compression — meaning smaller files — than MP3.”

“If you already have QuickTime 6 installed, you can visit Apple’s AAC audio gallery Web page and judge the format’s quality for yourself.”

“The Times also reported the ability to transfer downloaded songs to “any iPod they’ve registered with Apple,” hinting that a software lock will prevent copying to friends’ iPods.”

“Current iPods cannot play AAC files, but an iPod software update should rectify this. Presumably, the service-enabled version of iTunes also will add support for the AAC format. To install the upgrade, iPod owners first will need to download the file to their Mac, then connect their iPod and run the “updater” application.”

“The choice of AAC also will make songs obtained from Apple’s service unplayable on most other portable music players, since most can play only MP3s or files encoded in Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio (WMA) format,” reports David Zeiler for The Baltimore Sun. Full article here.


  1. Since Windows iPod users are dependent on MusicMatch, does this mean that you have specific information indicating that this service will be supporting AAC downloads and will participate in Apple’s music scheme?

    Everything I’ve read indicates that Apple’s music service will require iTunes; which would make it a Mac-only thing.

  2. I did check out the samples of AAC (both the Apple ones and those on other pages) I don’t know if these are samples destined for low bandwidth only but they are LOUSY.

    Sparse music such a solo accoustic guitar is “fine” but the limitations really show on denser tracks in the rock genre. The mid range frequencies are completely flat.

    Also they are talking about $1 per track or about $10 US per album. Do you get to play your music on your home CD PLAYER. NO! On your CD DISCMAN NO! Do you get to play it in your CAR CD PLAYER NO! Do you get to pop your music into a stereo at a friends party. NO! What happens when the AAC audio format is replaced by another. Do you get to keep your music or are you really just renting it.

    This is fine for flavour-of-the-week-music but any one seriously interested in music wants to own what they buy. They want to listen to stuff they bought 10 years earlier (without paying user fees)

  3. David F,
    How do you know? I would assume that you download any AAC tracks you buy and then use iTunes to burn standard Audio CDs. Wouldn’t that make perfect sense? You are jumping to conclusions with your “NO!” answers to your questions. Also, you would use iTunes’ EQ to equalize the tracks to your taste.

  4. And I’d venture to say that iTunes and iPod will remain MP3 compatible, so you can continue to use your “old” MP3s as well as create new ones. This would be similar to the existing preference within iTunes for encoding in AIFF or MP3 formats. Now you’d add an AAC format, excluding the conversion of purchased AAC music from Apple to another format.

  5. Well unless they plan on gracing the world with a Windows version of iTunes, I doubt it’s for iPods only. Duh. The service is only going to be available through iTunes.

  6. Well, I am glad that some people, hum…hum, are able to elequently discuss the specifics of an unconfirmed, unreleased Apple music service.
    Honestly, David F. must work for Apple to be spouting off
    his declarations of negativity in everyones face.
    So David F. (if that is your real name) ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />,
    please tell us all what the future holds, so
    that we to can be as enlightened and positive as you are.

  7. It seems to me that there is lack of knowledge, and misunderstood issues on both sides of this article, but let’s deal with the article itself first:

    David F certainly isn’t the one that must be working inside of Apple.. David Z (the article’s author) must be, to know all these things.

    David Z apparently hasn’t done his homework. The iPod is ‘updated’ through iTunes, not through an updater.

    This site is interesting, but has always had the WORST headlines around. Nowhere in this article does it say that the music service would be ‘iPod Only’ without the use of iTunes. Nowhere in this article does it say that the music service would work for Windows users, either. Mybad – you suggest that you have speculation of this, as opposed to being in the article itself.

    Next – the easiest, most natural way to have a music distribution service is to build it into iTunes’ search capability with one-click purchase from the Apple Store.

    now, on to the comments:
    iTunes has always had the ability to convert from the native format (right now MP3, but possibly AAC in the future) to AIFF, CD format. No, an AAC file would not play on a CD player that recognizes MP3 formatted music, but iTunes would STILL be able to burn regular audio CDs, unless functionality was removed from iTunes in the next release.

    The real question is if iTunes will be able to convert from AAC to MP3, and I would venture to say that he answer would be no.

    At any rate, this was overhyped, as usual, and the comments reflect them. I look forward to this service, assuming it’s $1 a song, no membership fee needed, period.
    — Robert Aldridge, webmaster at

  8. well all the AAC files I have heard have only been at 128, and 128 on mp3 is unbearable, this was definately at a point that I could stand, I’m sure that you’ll be able to download higher bit rates, and also you can still buy your own cd’s and rip them.

    Why are some people getting scared by this? No one is taking away cd’s this is only a new option, that you can choose to use or not to use.

    No one is forcing you to use this.

    Hell you can ever use aiff or wav today if you want to.

  9. What most of you are missing is the obvious implication that “iTunes for Windows” would complete the idea that Apple’s music service will be “iPod-only,” not “Mac-only.” Why would Apple start an online music service and cut out more than half of the installed base of iPods (Windows iPod outsells Mac iPod, 60% to 40% currently)? Answer: Apple wouldn’t. They may even be working with MusicMatch to build in the functionality for Windoze users that way. Come back to this article and apologize to MacDailyNews when it turns out to be correct, okay, naysayers?

  10. From: Robert Aldridge

    David Z apparently hasn’t done his homework. The iPod is ‘updated’ through iTunes, not through an updater.

    Well I guess Robert’s the real one that hasn’t been doing his home work because you can DL and run an installer for v 1.2.1 for the iPod!!!!!

    Don’t you feel like a jerk???

  11. >require iTunes; which would make it a Mac-only thing

    Correction…a Mac OS X-only thing. People who haven’t updated to OS X probably aren’t going to be able to use the service either. (In fact, Apple’s more likely to make it available to Windows iPod users than to Mac OS 9 iPod users.)

  12. Apple demonstrated and is relying on AAC to entice record companies. Why? Because the format is a copy-protected Advanced Audio Codec, which would be set to allow songs to be played on only one computer. (this may mean one iPod+computer)

    Do you honestly believe you will be able to simply bypass this codec and SIMLPY “save as” an MP3 or BURN a CD.

    Do you believe record companies would licence Apple their music libaries without safeguards.

    This is the whole point of AAC. It guarantees copy-protection.

  13. Shaun if you had read the article, you would have noticed that using the update Application referred to the Firmware update application that would allow the iPod to play AAC.

    “To install the upgrade, iPod owners first will need to download the file to their Mac, then connect their iPod and run the “updater” application.””

    Notice the first part. To install the upgrade (Which he just previously referred to as adding AAC compatibility).

    “Don’t you feel like a jerk???”

    Don’t you feel like a moron criticizing someone else because of your own inability to read, Mr. Excessive Punctuation.

    Go back to third grade.

  14. It’s nice to see my column stirring up such a lively discussion here…

    However, I would like to correct something in the initial commentary above. The quotes describing a potential Apple service came from the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story, NOT the New York Times.

    Also, I don’t work for Apple or have inside information (I wish!). All I know for certain is what the LA Times said, which I’m assuming they confirmed before running.

    My article was intended to point out what sort of copy protection issues Apple faces in launching a music download service. It does seem clear that the record companies would never sign on to a project that did not include some sort of DRM.

    But David F. is jumping the gun. I think Apple will try to ease up on the DRM as much as it can without scaring the record companies away. Thus, each file could only be copied a fixed number of times to a CD or iPod.

    All the talk about Windows and OS 9 compatiblity is an open question. While Apple has been pushing hard for OS X adoption, limiting the service to X users severely diminishes the number of potential customers — and thus potential revenue.

    I think the suggestion that users may not be able to convert AAC coded songs to MP3 songs could well prove to be true; otherwise, what use would the copy protection be?

    One of the analysts I spoke with for the article mentioned a workaround that probably would work, though: once a song is burned to a CD, it can be “re-ripped” as a DRM-free MP3.

    Finally, thanks to Shaun for sticking up for me.

  15. Regarding security – if you can hear it through headphones, you can line-out it to any recording device and record it to any medium you like.

    They can try digital watermarks to prevent clean recordings, but that’s likely to be cracked very fast.

    For now, if my ears can hear it, I can burn it to a CD.

  16. “Do you honestly believe you will be able to simply bypass this codec and SIMLPY “save as” an MP3 or BURN a CD.

    Do you believe record companies would licence Apple their music libaries without safeguards.”

    I heard that some record companies actually sell CDs directly to consumers without you having to download and burn it. Crazy stuff!

  17. Every VCR made today detects commercially copyrighted tapes and prevents copying. Hollywood held off on the DVD format until copyprotection was dealt with.

    They are waiting for the same thing with downloadable music.

    Microsoft and Intel will incorporate copyprotection/”rights management” into the operating system and in the hardware. (over 90%of computers)

    Apple will be left out completely if they do not assure copyprotection. I believe iTunes will cease to be a free for all SOON. The iPod’s success depends on access to downloadable major label music and the record companies will be calling the shots.

    Once we begin to favor mp3 players over CD players they will insist on all files being copyprotected. And you know who they are. Why do you think the dollar bill has a pyramid with an eye on it. Kennedy knew why but he’s not talking.

  18. You are correct – any thing that comes through the headphones can be recorded to your Mac and burned to CD – by using a line cable between the two. The down side to this is that the music goes through an analog to digital processor and is no longer “pure” digital therefore the CD you burn will not be of the same quaility as one made from files that have always been digital. The chances that you can tell the difference are slim and in a car at 55 to 70 mph ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  19. Shaun – The way I read the sentence in the article, I clearly read that David Z was saying that you would be able to ‘update’ the iPod — not clearly described to me, so I took it as uploading songs — through a separate application. So the sentence read to me, you would be able to download a song from the service then upload it via an application. Maybe I misread it and David Z intended this to be as a firmware update. On the other hand, if that is the case, I’d have preferred he say that you would be able to ‘download a firmware update.’

    Where do you get off calling me a jerk? I didn’t call David Z any names, and don’t intend to. I said that he didn’t do his homework on that downloading issue. That is criticism of the article, not calling David Z something that he is not.

    David Z – thanks for following up your article in this forum. I agree with you about the question of whether Apple will allow iTunes to convert from AAC to MP3, but I would suspect that they will want to allow iTunes/iPod users the ability to burn to CD as the standard AIFF format, as Apple has said often that Music lovers should be allowed to listen to the music they legally buy on anything, anywhere, and any way they want. Since the crux of the matter is sharing the music illegally through P2P networks, I would suspect that the direct conversion to MP3 would not be allowed, but not being allowed to burn my music to a CD to listen in my car stereo, I think, crosses that line again that the music publishers have been eagerly ready to cross over and over again up to this point.

    I agree with you about Apple not planning to limit the market of this music service to Mac users. It seems like it would be a bad mistake to do so, and cut the profits of the music service in half.

    David F just went overboard. It happens sometimes.
    — Robert Aldridge

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